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Is The Bluetooth-Powered “Nod” Ring The Future Of Gesture Control?

nodThe Nod, available for pre-order starting today, promises to provide buyers “the future of gesture control” in a small black ring package that connects to your smart home and computer via Bluetooth. For something so small, that’s a big promise–and at $149, it’s a big price. But can the Nod finally be the device that makes gesture-control practical?

The device itself looks relatively fashionable with its brushed metal inner ring, matte-black exterior and two clicker buttons. Of course, it might be a stretch to imagine that the Nod will find its way onto most people’s hands when they’re not actively using it. The pre-order site is a bit light in terms of specifications, but according to a post on CNET, it’s equipped with “a nine-axis accelerometer, plus two Cortex M3 processors.” That’s a significant amount of hardware packed into a tiny ring.

The video preview for the Nod offers up a full range of possibilities, many of which seem to involve the use of an Android-based set top box like the Ouya or Fire TV consoles. The Nod ring simulates the “Swype” style of keyboard that’s typically found in some form on Android devices, giving users the ability to input text much faster than the hunt-and-peck style that’s become standard with a remote.

The video also shows the Nod being used as a controller for presentations and to navigate apps like Google Earth with the wave of a hand. On the subject of Google, the Nod’s press page makes a point of stressing its compatibility with the Google-owned Nest Smart Thermostat, letting users adjust the temperature by miming that movement with their hands.

One of the more interesting applications of the Nod teased by the company’s site includes gaming. According to the FAQ, wearing two Nod rings at once—one on each hand, it seems—could enable play for games that involve moving and shooting. The video shows a user playing what looks to be the Fire TV-exclusive game Sev Zero. Though, using two Nods in place of a game controller seems a bit impractical, not to mention expensive. Remember, each one costs $149.

And as slick as the Nod seems on the face of things, that price tag could be a major barrier. Paying $150 for a motion control device, even one that looks as functional as the Nod, seems like it might limit the appeal of the device to only those who have extra cash to burn. As it stands, it’s not clear what kinds of apps will be made for the Nod and whether those apps will be attractive enough to justify the device’s relatively high cost. Currently, the site’s FAQ boasts the aforementioned “gestural glide keyboard” app and a remote camera shutter. There’s also an open API for developers through which the company “expect[s] to have many developers excited to expand Nod’s ecosystem.” But for now, the relative silence with regard to Nod apps seems a little troubling.

Then there are questions regarding the main function of the Nod: gesture controls. The world of gesture control took a huge step forward with the release of Microsoft’s Kinect for the Xbox 360 a few years ago, mainly due to the efforts of dedicated hackers who modified the gaming interface to be a practical addition to the arts and sciences. But once consumers realized the Kinect’s major limitations as a control device in gaming, gesture-based control seemed to lose some of its luster.

Will the same issues be discovered with the Nod? It may have an edge on other motion control devices because of its polished presentation. But the company behind the Nod will need to bring more possibilities to bear if it wants to justify its $150 price tag.

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